NEW DELHI: Claims that the Islamic State’s presence in Libya -- marked by bombings, and executions -- is exaggerated will be dealt a severe blow if the latest reports are true. The group has said that it has gained full control of the Libyan city of Sirte from the Fajr Libya militia, including a power plant. The power plant in Sirte supplies central and western parts of the country with electricity.

According to SITE Intelligence Group, the Islamic State has published photos backing the claim, of "IS fighters engaged in clashes, sitting atop heavy guns, exploring the power plant and town, as well as bodies of dead Fajr Libya fighters". SITE quoted a report in which an IS division that calls itself "Tripoli Province" said "soldiers of the caliphate" seized control of the last locations of Fajr Libya gunmen in Sirte, bringing the city effectively under the group’s control.

The claims follow reports that the Islamic State overran the airport in Sirte about two weeks ago. The reports, if true, signal the group’s biggest gains in Libya, and perhaps outside of its strong-base in Syria and Iraq in general.

In Libya, specifically, the Islamic State has exploited the security vacuum. A day ago, the US confirmed that the group had kidnapped 86 Eritrean Christians from a people-smugglers' caravan.

The group has claimed a string of attacks on embassies, released a video purportedly showing the killing of up to 30 Ethiopian Christians in Libya, released a video allegedly showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya, claimed an attack on the luxurious Corinthia hotel in central Tripoli -- amongst other incidents of violence.

The Islamic State’s relative success in Libya is nevertheless surprising. For one, the Islamic State has seen success by capitalizing on the Shia-Sunni conflict in Iraq and Syria, and sectarian tensions of this scale do not exist in Libya. The crisis in Libya is more directly concerned with the local power vacuum, and this context has led to many on social media wondering whether the group is really responsible for all the attacks it has claimed.

However, the string of attacks have changed the already fraught political landscape. The execution of Egyptian Christians drew a response from Egypt in the form of bombings targetting Islamic State camps, training sites and weapons storage areas in Libya. This response could escalate Egypt’s role in Libya. In a nationally televised speech, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi said, “ Egypt “reserves the right to respond in the way and timing it sees fit for retribution from these killers.” Al Sisi has also previously said that Libya’s internal struggle poses a security risk to Egypt, and has thrown his political support behind Libya’s internationally recognized government, which has unsuccessfully tried to overthrow a rival Islamist government that controls the capital, Tripoli.

Egypt is already engaged in a fight against Islamic militants in the Sinai peninsula -- with Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (ABM), that has carried out a series of attacks on security forces in the region, having pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. “After entrusting God we decided to swear allegiance to the emir of the faithful Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, caliph of the Muslims in Syria and Iraq and in other countries,” the statement by the group said. The statement went on to ask Egyptians to rebel against "the tyrant," President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, declaring that “we will continue to fight the army until the day of judgment.”

In addition to Libya and Egypt, the group has gained a foothold in another troubled Middle Eastern country. In Yemen, a group claiming to be a Yemeni branch of the Islamic State says it was responsible for an attack on two mosques linked to the Shiite Houthis that killed 137 and injured 350 people. In May, soon after, the group claimed an attack on a Houthi mosque in Sana’a that wounded 13.

The group also claimed an attack on tourists at the Bardo Museum in Tunis, Tunisia, that killed 23 people.

Also recently, militant group Boko Haram that is based in Nigeria, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. The group officially changed its name to Islamic State's West Africa Province," or ISWAP. Boko Haram -- itself a nickname for Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad, which in Arabic means "People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad" -- had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State previously, but till now, was operating under its independent name. “Our caliph, God save him, has accepted the pledge of loyalty of our brothers of Boko Haram so we congratulate Muslims and our jihadi brothers in West Africa,” Reuters quoted Islamic State spokesman Abu Mohammad Adnani as saying in an audio message in March.

Further, the Islamic State seems to be making inroads into South Asia. In Afghanistan, at the time of writing, more than a dozen Taliban fighters have been killed in clashes with Islamic State militants in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar Province. The fighting is the latest in a string of such clashes in eastern Afghanistan, with reports last week of an Islamic State ambush on Taliban forces that killed and beheaded several Taliban militants.

The question remains whether the Islamic State parent group is actively involved in recruiting or training or is the Islamic State in Afghanistan an independent initiative that bears the name for the sake of bearing the name?

Although the answer to the above question is important -- especially as it impacts the context of a Mullah Omar-led Taliban dominated militant movement in South Asia pitted against Abu bakr Baghdadi’s “Caliphate” centred on the Middle East -- the rise of a so-called Afghan Islamic State, even if nascent and disconnected, is a worrying development.

The attacks claimed by IS in Afghanistan have been increasing. In May, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden vest outside a bank in Jalalabad, the capital of the eastern province of Nangahar, killing at least 34 people and injuring 125 others.

The attack was claimed by a group called ISIS Wilayat Khorasan, with a statement issued naming the suicide bomber as Abu Mohammad Khorasani. A photograph purportedly of Khorasani was included, showing the attacker seated on a prayer mat, a scarf covering his face and a Kalashnikov rifle by his side. A black Islamic State flag was visible in the background.

Referring to this claim, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said: “Who claimed responsibility for the horrific attack in Nangahar today? The Taliban did not claim responsibility for the attack, Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack.”

Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports indicate that the Taliban and Islamic State have declared “jihad” against each other. Helmand province police chief Nabi Jan Mullahkhil was quoted by Afghanistan's Mashaal Radio saying that authorities had obtained “documents” that suggest that the two militant groups had turned on each other, according to independent news outlet Khaama. Khaama reported, “Reports of minor clashes between the fighters of Taliban group and the newly emerged Daesh have published in the past.”

Whilst the above portrays a frightening scenario, with disgruntled Taliban fighters providing a suitable recruiting ground for the Islamic State’s aspirations in the region, the presence of the Syria and Iraq-based militant group in the South Asian country is still fairly limited.

The Islamic State itself seems to be unclear on whether it carried out the attack or not. “ISIS was not behind the deadly blast in Jalalabad, and we condemn such an attack,” Sheikh Muslim Dost, a spokesperson for the group in Afghanistan, told The Daily Beast. “This is an act of the Pakistani agencies to damage reputation of the ISIS.”

Reports of the Islamic State in Afghanistan began to emerge late last year, when in September 2014 insurgents reported to be associated with the Islamic State battled Afghan security forces in the Arjistan district of Ghazni province. At the time, officials reported that the insurgents had raised the black flag of the Islamic State. However, the incident is now mired in controversy as the officials recanted their statements and said they had embellished the story so as to receive more resources.

In February 2015, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s Chief of Police denied that the Islamic State was present in the area, insisting that the insurgents were local Taliban fighters.

Nevertheless, the Islamic State announced its expansion into “Khorassan Province” and officially appointed Hafiz Saeed Khan as the Wali (Governor) of Khorassan. The group also appointed former Guantanamo Bay detainee and senior Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadim as Khan’s deputy. The appointments and announcements followed a video released in January 2015 -- by disgruntled Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants and a handful of little-known Afghan Taliban fighters -- that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

Since then, there have been isolated reports of the Islamic State’s black flag being raised in parts of Afghanistan. In Farah province for instance, a group of militants who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State set up a training camp; in Sar-i-Pul province, local officials reported that insurgents had raised the black flag of the Islamic State in Kohistanat district; in nearby Darzab district of Jawzjan province, 600 insurgents reportedly raised the black flag and began fighting on behalf of the Islamic State.

Earlier this year, in Nangarhar province, Taliban factions and Islamic State-affiliated insurgents clashed in what was widely perceived to be a turf war. In March, Afghan National Army (ANA) officials reported that a clash between rival Taliban and Islamic State factions in the Arghandab district of Zabul had killed seven Islamic State fighters. Also earlier in March, Hafiz Waheed, an Islamic State-linked militant was killed in an airstrike in Afghanistan.

Directly linked to the Islamic State’s expansion into Afghanistan is its presence in Pakistan. In May this year, 43 Ismaili Shia Muslims were killed and 20 others injured as Jundullah “Soldiers of Allah” that swore allegiance to the Islamic State last November struck in Karachi. Jundullah spokesperson Ahmed Marwat told Reuters ,"These killed people were Ismaili and we consider them kafir (non-Muslim). We had four attackers. In the coming days we will attack Ismailis, Shi'ites and Christians." According to some reports, a blood-stained pamphlet was found at the scene in which the Islamic State itself had claimed responsibility.

Significantly, Jundullah had claimed last November that a delegation from the Islamic State had visited Balochistan. Marwat said then that the purpose of the visit was to see how it could work to unite Pakistani militant groups. This was just after Jundullah had announced it allegiance to IS. The military offensive against the militants has proven to be a double edged sword in Pakistan. On the one hand it has weakened and splintered the militant organisations, and on the other as a result of this has led them to seek new coalitions with the Islamic State clearly cashing in on the opportunity to enter both Pakistan and Afghanistan through the two outfits of the Taliban respectively, and their offshoots.

Earlier, the provincial government of Balochistan had conveyed a confidential report to the federal government and law enforcement agencies warning of increased footprints of IS, also known by the Arabic acronym Daish, in Pakistan.

"It has been reliably learnt that Daish has offered some elements of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Ahl-e-Sunnat Wai Jamat (ASWJ) to join hands in Pakistan. Daish has also formed a ten-member Strategic Planning Wing," the report from the Home and Tribal Affair Department of Balochistan had said according to the Pakistani journalists.

Is the Islamic State emerging as the first global terror movement? It may be too soon to make the above claim, but if the group continues expanding at this rate, it may very well be so.